Enjoying the Dawn mission to dwarf planet Ceres? Welcome to HAMO (High Altitude Mapping Orbit). Dawn has now moved to within about 900 miles (1,500 km) from Ceres. This phase of the mission has just begun and promises to reveal even more about this little world. Here are some early images from that closer orbit.
The images on this page were released yesterday (August 25, 2015). The first two show an area close to Ceres’ equator, looking straight down. What you are seeing here is a curious 6,000-meter / 19,400-foot tall mountain, seen from directly overhead. The mountain is 9 miles (15 km) wide. The summit area is clearly very rough, not so obvious from the much higher Survey Orbit, which Dawn just left (see the various orbits on the diagram below). The streaks do not extend around the entire base, an areas on the slopes on the south east flanks are cratered.
I have rotated the images so North is top.
What does show is that the streaks do not appear to end with slumped material at the mountain’s base. Perhaps LAMO (Low Altitude Mapping Orbit) – beginning mid-December, 2015 – will show if this is really so.
By the way, Ceres itself is only 599 miles (965 km) wide.
Many craters on Ceres appear doubled, much like the paired craters also seen on 4 Vesta, as well as much smaller asteroids 243 Ida and 253 Mathilde. Perhaps double impactors are more common within the asteroid belt?
To me, there appears to be a lot of the Saturn moon Tethys and the Uranus moons Umbriel and Oberon about 1 Ceres.
More images and insights to come!
Bottom line: The Dawn spacecraft has now moved to HAMO (High Altitude Mapping Orbit), only about 900 miles (1,500 km) from the dwarf planet 1 Ceres. Here are some early images from that closer orbit.
Andrew R. Brown, an avid follower of the space program, writes frequently about space topics for EarthSky. Over several years, he has also suggested observations that were carried out by imaging teams of some space missions. He has lives in Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom and works for local government, Kent County Council.